Recently I learned of an acquaintances’ self-inflicted passing. Let’s just call it for what it was – a suicide. Life got too hard for Ellen.
Today a memorial service was held for her and I live too far away to attend. That was hard for me.
I met Ellen about five years ago, in Yuma, Arizona. She was originally from a town north of Seattle where I grew up. Being a ‘snowbird’ I popped in and out of Yuma every winter, where I met her and would get to see her at the recovery meetings we both attended. As far as I know, she went every day or nearly every day. She had a bit of time collected, but she had been working at it for a couple of decades. I was always happy to see her smiling face.
Ellen was eight years younger than I. When I first met her, she appeared eight years older. She was rail thin, missing most of her teeth, fidgeted constantly and was always on her way outside to smoke. But she had the most marvelous sense of humor; about herself and while she looked like an “unmade bed” at times – she had a heart of gold. She was kind. She was tough. She was generous of spirit. She had lived a hard life. She spoke deeply of her children and her love for them. She kept trying to get recovery. She was thrilled when she was blessed as a grandmother. She had her demons for sure, as we all do.
Today, just as the memorial service was about to begin to celebrate her life, I was getting ready to start a meditation. As I collected myself I had this sudden awareness that I was pissed at her. I was pissed that she could not stay and honor the hard fought life that she so desperately clung to so many times in the recent past. According to another friend she was excited about a pending improvement in her health and a visit from her high school graduate son. She didn’t stay to enjoy the outcomes of another miracle in her life.
I didn’t know Ellen well. But I liked her and I liked her spirit. I wanted her to be happy and sober. I know that she is at peace now. That doesn’t make it less hard.
I have let go of the anger that I had earlier today. But my point is this. We come to recovery broken and have gifts of tools, friendship and love practically thrown at us. I know I have left claw marks on some bathroom walls over the years and enough tears to fill the tub that I found myself sitting in contemplating the same fate. Really God, you want me to live? I would talk to him like he was my spiritual therapist. In retrospect I guess he was. He still is.
I have yelled obscenities at God and dropped him like he was poison for months on end only to crawl back into HIS loving arms; begging for forgiveness and discovering that I didn’t need HIS forgiveness but my own. I had to love myself enough to honor the hard fought life of recovery that I had been blessed with for so many years. I had to honor my courage for walking away from abusive family members who lived lives of drama, bitterness and toxic self-loathing. I must continue to honor that decision even under the smug glances from outsiders who know nothing of my beginning, my middle and where I stand today. Or of the courage it took to walk towards a healthy life and self-love.
Dear Ellen – in the meantime please be kind to God and his angels. You are and will be missed when next I visit Yuma.
Life is hard. Then it gets easy. Then it gets hard again. Breathe. Trudge. Live, love, laugh. Repeat.